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The malaria parasite
Plasmodium falciparum
Researchers have identified 466 proteins in the malaria parasite that could be fruitful targets for drugs against the disease, which kills millions of people each year, mostly in Africa.

The proteins, known as 'transit peptides', interact with special structures in the parasite's cells called plastids. Because human cells do not contain plastids, drugs that interfere with the action of these proteins can shut the parasites down without harming humans. Until now, however, transit peptides have been poorly understood and difficult to identify.

In this week's issue of Science, Bernardo Foth from the University of Melbourne, Australia, and colleagues report that they analysed hundreds of proteins from the malaria parasite and identified certain features unique to transit peptides. They then created artificial versions that lacked these characteristics and found — as expected — that the peptides could no longer work properly.

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Link to paper in Science by Bernando Foth et al

Photo credit WHO/MAP/TDR

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